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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

HOM: Deck Hand

There were two husky guys running the deck, Wayne & Layne, and Don put me up with them to learn the job. I felt a little overwhelmed -- I wasn't used to being the littlest guy in a crew, and Wayne & Layne were both bigger than I was. The first thing one of them did was take me to the millwright to have my new picaroon modified. The straight and blunt tip was heated, hammered, hardened and reshaped into something a little longer, a little more curved and a lot more sharply pointed. The reshaped point penetrated the logs better and was far less likely to tear out. The head was originally pinned on, but the hole was drilled out and the pin replaced with a bolt to hold everything together. These pics had to take a lot of abuse and needed to be strong. The end of the handle was reworked for a better grip, and a red line painted on it fourteen inches above the head to show the maximum size of wood that could be run through the chipper. It has been pointed out to me that "Picaroon" is no longer politically correct, and the tool is now called a "Hookaroon." Sorry , but as far as I am concerned it is a "Picaroon." C&C bought them cheaply and in bulk because they didn't last long. This is the head of my last pic, which I used for my last few months at C&C and kept as a souvenir. As you can see, these picaroons took a beating. The point on this one, by the way, had been broken off and the remnant was reshaped. It had been longer, a little more curved, and quite a bit sharper. The pic was the tool of choice for handling both logs and core. A healthy swing would sink the point into the log so you could pull it or maneuver it around. With the hardware taken care of, training me was next. The (usually) two guys on the deck had a number of responsibilities, all of which could be summed up as "Keep the lathes running smoothly." Their main job was to dump the cores coming out of the lathes into the bins, and to put metal bands around the core when the bins were full so the Cat operator -- Randy -- could haul them out and load them on a truck. The infeeds & lathes took a little extra work. The logs on the infeed sometimes landed in a jumble. This meant climbing on the infeed and wrestling them into line again, all nice and parallel. Since the lathe operator rarely shut off the infeed, it made life interesting. You'd be balanced on one log and hauling on another and the whole shebang would jerk forward a foot or two. Oops. Sometimes the logs coming in would be too big for the charger to handle, which meant one of the deck hands had to use the crane to pick up the log, run it forward, and lower it into the lathe. Sometimes a log would be rotten in the center and couldn't be spun down in the lathe -- either the chucks would simply squish into the ends with no traction or the log would come apart. In any case, a deck hand had to get the log or its remnants out of the lathe. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)